Cringeworthy Christianity: Stuff We Say

Today I issue a formal apology to all humans who have innocently bumped into a Christian only to be accosted with offensive or perplexing language that feels, at best, nonsensical or, even worse, makes sense, but is flat-out weird. We have our own language. Some of us also have wine. If it’s been a while, you should at least try church again. It’s not the pearl-clutching society of old bitties it once was. I swear. I have a tattoo on my neck. You can trust me. But I digress…

Hi, welcome to church! If you’re not washed in the blood, maybe you need to come to the river and drink. Hey, while you’re there, have you been baptized by water? Fire? Are you filled with the Holy Ghost, as evidenced with the speaking of tongues? The great cloud of witnesses is watching you run your race so run for the prize! Do you want the full armor? We’ll know you by your fruit so we will lay our hands on you before we take up a love offering. First, we’ll eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood. Let’s lift up our hands and surrender. Are you ready to take up your cross and die for Christ? Hope to see you next Sunday! Amen!

As a pastor’s kid and now a pastor’s wife, I have seen it and heard it and cringed at it all. I still suck wind through my teeth when we ask visitors to stand up or wave and then 250 people turn and stare, clapping wildly as they try to shrink into their chair and maintain a brave smile. The thing about Christians is that most of us are all so genuine in really, really wanting to show people what joy we have found in Jesus Christ that our unbridled enthusiasm becomes clown-with-yellow-pointy-teeth-and-drippy-makeup scary. Please stop.

Christians speak their own language, it’s true. How did that happen?! Do we know how we sound to the rest of the world? I’m guessing we don’t, not most of the time. Paul got it. He wrote, “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save them. This I do for the gospel’s sake…” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Let’s all agree that telling people things like God will take coal and cleanse their lips is not the way to interest them in learning more. Let’s stop saying weird things about an enemy shooting fiery darts and crouching at their door seeking to devour and instead invite them to coffee and just listen and say things like, “Can I pray for you?” (We can tell them about the foot washing once we’ve got them in our clutches.)